The Fourth Sunday of Advent/December 18, 2019
Just these lines, my friends …
… to say that this past Monday, December 9, John Higdon was sworn in as the new Mayor of Matthews. John and his family have been a part of our Matthews United Methodist faith community for a number of years. I had the privilege of holding the Bible as John placed his left hand on it and was sworn into office. It was a deeply holy moment for me. Read here the prayer John prayed to inaugurate his new work as our Mayor.
Sunday, December 15, was a wonderful day … the morning filled with beautiful worship. You can watch here. THEN in the evening, gathering with our United Youth in the Gym for their annual Christmas Party and Talent Show. They are such a force for God. Afterwards, Karen and I headed across the street to be with our amazing friends with Rainbow Express as they presented a Live Nativity in the front yard of their home at the corner of Fullwood Lane and Trade Street. It was Christmas. You must have this night on your calendar for next year.
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
As a child, I remember every Christmas listening to It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year as part of our holiday cheer repertoire. I know the cast of Glee and the Pentatonix have recorded this, but Andy Williams’ original version is still my favorite. It’s one of those happy songs with which you can’t help but sing along. As I contemplate Christmas, I find myself coming back to it as a way to describe what the birth of Jesus can mean to us.
On the surface, Jesus’ birth doesn’t seem like the most wonderful time. Parents from the margins of their community give birth to a son in a place on the fringe of society. Furthermore, we mark this occasion in the winter when it is dark and cold. It doesn’t paint a cheery picture of something to celebrate, but I think that’s the point. Imagine instead that Jesus had been born in an upwardly mobile family on a beautiful summer day in the comforts of a grand villa by the sea. It sounds idyllic, but it may not communicate that this signifies great news to ALL people. It may seem it is only for people who are in a good place in life.
I think the power of the Christmas story is that the light and love of God broke into the world in an unexpected place with unexpected people. It came on a dark day to people for whom life was hard. Yet when the shepherds encountered the infant Jesus, they left “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). For them, it was the most wonderful time of the year. The message to us all is this: there is no situation so difficult or place so dark that the light and love of God cannot shine.
Christmas is when we celebrate that God meets us wherever we are, in the midst of whatever we are facing. It remind us that today is the day the light and love of God can break into our lives. That’s why it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
An Act of Generosity
At the heart of Christmas is an act of generosity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.” As much as we try to commercialize it, Christmas cannot ultimately be purchased, leased, borrowed, or stolen. Christmas can only be received as a gift.
The natural response to the gift of Jesus is gratitude. If only we could see with the clarity of the Wise Men, who brought their very best to the manger in gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In this way, worship of the true King is both spiritual material all at the same time. Gratitude without generosity is mere sentiment. Generosity without gratitude is empty transaction.
I will often say when I’m introducing a song/hymn in church, “And now let us stand and sing together in response to all of God’s goodness.” That is my invitation to you as we have our lives match our voices during this special season.
Click here for a link to give in 2019. Let’s celebrate God’s faithfulness and participate in making God’s love real together.
If you will, please consider putting an “X” on the calendar for these upcoming dates:
- Advent Worship: Most Sundays during the Advent season, I’ve been mentioning John Kralik’s book, A Simple Act of Gratitude. If you’d like to order your own copy you can do so by clicking here. You might even consider it as a Christmas gift for a loved one.
- Christmas Eve at Matthews: At Matthews, we believe that the Church should be FOR the community, FOR the world…and just like every Christmas we’ll be giving 100% of our Christmas Eve offering to helping local and global organizations. So join us this Christmas Eve for one of seven services filled with familiar Christmas songs, luminaries leading us to the nativity scene, and a powerful reminder that God is FOR us. Click here for more information.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Weekend on January 19-20: I hope you’ll participate in some of our activities. You can click here to see a schedule.
- Leadership Connection on Saturday January 25, 8:30 am in The Commons: Church leaders will gather to prepare for 2020. All are welcome to participate. Immediately following, our Charge Conference will meet to set our pastoral salaries and budget for 2020.
This Sunday (December 22) in Worship
When was the last time you saw Christmas through a child’s eyes? I don’t mean the looks on their faces at the big pile of gifts under the tree, or the wonder in their eyes as they sit on Santa’s lap at South Park. I’m talking about that story we’ve heard a thousand times, the one with the donkey and the stable and the shepherds with their smelly sheep. The one that sometimes gets lost for us adults amidst the busyness of buying gifts, last-minute baking, holiday parties and end-of-year deadlines.
Have you seen those rumpled shepherds standing around the stable, awed that God has chosen them? Have you heard the perspective of the donkey, thrilled that she was the one who got to carry Mary all the way to Bethlehem? Have you smelled the hay in the manger, felt the scratchy robes of the Magi? Have you met the grumpy Innkeeper, unaware that the world is changing in his own backyard?
This Sunday (December 22) we invite you to join us for a time of imagination and childlike wonder. We will experience the Christmas story with the children of Matthews United Methodist. We will step into the stable surrounded by animals to witness the birth of Jesus in a way we don’t usually allow ourselves to do.
I hope you’ll be there to see Christmas through a child’s eyes. We’ll also take our final step into our Advent worship series, Count Your Blessings. The scripture lesson for the sermon is Matthew 2:1-12 and the title, Christmas Comes.
I’m Counting my Blessings,
Dr. Charles (Chuck) W. Wilson II
Did you know that Matthews UMC was selected as the location for the February 1 TreeStore, where residents of Matthews are eligible to get two free trees? The Town of Matthews, TreesCharlotte & Matthews Appearance and Tree Advisory Committee have partnered for this local event. Look for details in January or click here to the registration link, opening January 14 and closing midnight, January 28.
Did you know that Henry Wetmore and Nick Cable did a great job with production and set up for Deep Kids last Sunday? Thanks to these two leaders for being part of an amazing Production team!
Did you know that Bob Aycock led the large group Deep Kids teaching time (Kindergarten-3rd Grade) before the children broke into their Sunday morning small groups in the Gym on December 15 at 9:30? There were 32 children and leaders in attendance. Children heard the story that “Jesus is Born” and had fun interacting with their friends in song, dance and play!